Letter To Senator Tests Positive For Deadly Poison

By: CNN (Posted by Josh Mabry)
By: CNN (Posted by Josh Mabry)

Washington (CNN) -- An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol's off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.

After the envelope tested positive in a first routine test, it was retested two more times, each time coming up positive, the law enforcement source said. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing.

The envelope was addressed to a U.S. senator, though the sources would not say which one.

Ricin is a highly toxic substance derived from castor beans. As little as 500 micrograms -- an amount the size of the head of a pin -- can kill an adult. There is no specific test for exposure and no antidote once exposed.

It can be produced easily and cheaply, and authorities in several countries have investigated links between suspect extremists and ricin. But experts say it is more effective on individuals than as a weapon of mass destruction.

Ricin was used in the 1978 assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. The author, who had defected nine years earlier, was jabbed by the tip of an umbrella while waiting for a bus in London and died four days later.

CNN's Matt Smith contributed to this report.


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